How To Write Song Lyrics: Examples

Sketch CDs

Part Four: Examples

There is no real technique or formula for writing song lyrics. When I say this I mean, writing a hit song—a song that will become a classic to the mass audience.  Sure, when writing song lyrics, there is the verses, chorus, and possibly bridge and pre chorus, but following those guidelines is not going to ensure that what you write will become a hit or will reach success. It is the content—the words, that is the ultimate deciding factor.

When I first starting writing, I began with song lyrics. I wrote randomly, but most of my songs followed the verse, chorus, bridge pattern. I didn’t know (and still don’t know) which songs would be a hit, because many of them were never showcased. But of the few songs I shared, I received positive feedback. When I write song lyrics, they come from “the heart”. They are based on what I feel about a particular situation or what current state of mind I’m. I don’t think about formulas or compare them to hit songs already out there. I stay true to how the song forms in my mind.

There are many ways song lyrics can be written and it will depend on content, how you want the message delivered, and how you want the movement of the song to be.

Songs from an emotional standpoint:

These are song lyrics that are not illustrative in nature, but convey a feeling about a situation, object, or person.

One example is Reach by Gloria Estefan.

Some dreams live on in time forever
Those dreams, you want with all your heart
And I’ll do whatever it takes
Follow through with the promise I made
Put it all on the line
What I hoped for at last would be mine

In songs like this, the verse is just as important as the chorus. You want the verse to sink into the listener’s mind and leave a lasting impression on them. You want the listener to find personal meaning in these lyrics. It is like you are speaking to them or can relate to them.

The chorus should summarize the overall message of the song. The chorus should get to the point and let the listener know the purpose of the song.

If I could reach, higher
Just for one moment touch the sky
From that one moment in my life
I’m gonna be stronger
Know that I’ve tried my very best
I’d put my spirit to the test
If I could reach

Songs from an illustrative standpoint:

These are story like song lyrics. They describe or talk about an environment, place, or situation. Their purpose can be purely for entertainment, but they can convey a meaningful message just like an emotional base song.

Two examples are Colors of the Wind by Vanessa Williams (Disney) and Gotham City by R Kelly.

Colors of the Wind:

You think you own whatever land you land on
The earth is just a dead thing you can claim
But I know every rock and tree and creature
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name

You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You’ll learn things you never knew you never knew

Gotham City:

I’m lookin over the skyline of the city
How loud, quiet nights in the mist of crime
How next door to happiness lives sorrow
And signals of solution in the sky

In songs like these, the verse will primary include the descriptive story words. This is the area where the story will be told, where the listener will know what the song is about and will give the chorus meaning and make sense. In songs like these, the verse is generally what will determine whether the song is a hit. If the verse is strong, chances are the song will be successful.

The chorus should, just like an emotional based song, illustrate the point of the song or the plot of the song. In an illustrative song, the chorus will most likely be as descriptive as the lyrics, but sometimes it can contain emotional based lyrics.

Colors of the Wind:

Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon
Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grinned?
Can you sing with all the voices of the mountain?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?

Gotham City:

A city of justice, a city of love
A city of peace, for everyone of us
We all need it, can’t live without it
A Gotham City, oh, yeah

In writing song lyrics, a bridge is not necessary, although a lot of songs contain them. In Reach, there is no bridge, and in Colors of the Wind and Gotham City, there is a bridge of a few lines. To me, adding a bridge may be necessary if you have more than one message to get across or if you want to get your message across in a different way. Maybe the chorus does not get to the point—the bridge would be a place to get that point across.

Colors of the Wind:

How high does the sycamore grow?
If you cut it down, then you’ll never know

Gotham City:

Yet in the middle of stormy weather
We won’t stumble and we won’t fall
I know a place that all of us shelter

Overall, in writing song lyrics, most will have a verse, chorus, and bridge. As you write more songs, you may find yourself not always needing a bridge, and maybe even wanting to stylized some songs with repeat verses, and choruses—even pre choruses, which are usually added when you want to reel in the listener to the chorus—when the chorus might be in contrast with the verse or when you want to introduce the chorus if the verse has not indicated what the chorus will be about.

It is impossible to truly determine how to write perfect song lyrics. Simply listening to popular songs out there can give insight, but just like any creative product, it is for the audience to decide. When I was serious about becoming a songwriter, I sought advice from people and books on how to write songs or even how to write authentic songs. In the end, I realized if you pay attention to how songs that are already out there are written, from the words, placement, and patterns, you will become familiar with the many ways songs are written. If you are writing songs as a beginner, it helps to look at popular songs out there and review the elements that make the songs likeable to you—what is it about the song’s structure that draw you to the song.

Songs taken from www.lyricsfreak.com.

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